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Folks, we are so close now, we are just a few away from the start of the 2010 Tour de France. That magical time of year when everything in my world turns yellow, blue, white and red and the smell of French food floats through the house, it’s like New Years Eve, my birthday and Christmas rolled into one. I look forward to July like a child waiting for Santa to come and July 3rd is Christmas morning. But not only is it the Tour de France, it is also the annual Tour de French Cuisine, the annual celebration that follows the route of the Tour de France with dishes and specialties specific to each stage and village or region. Now in its 3rd year, it is my own way of celebrating the many great corners of France and some of the lesser known delicacies. Everybody knows what Provence is all about and the flavors and dishes the area is known for, but play along with me and you will learn all about Coco beans and where they are grown and the specific dish they are used in.
The 2010 route of the Tour de France starts outside of France in Rotterdam. It may be called the Tour de France, but every year they travel into at least a few countries, such as Switzerland, Italy and Spain, but this year the Netherlands and Belgium are the only neighbors taking part in all the fun. Beginning on July 3rd the Tour starts with an individual time trial, also known as the “Race of Truth”, where each rider is riding alone and against the clock. Starting in Europe’s largest seaport, Rotterdam is an old but very modern city. After the entire area was practically destroyed in the Second World War, it was rebuilt with a modern look and that is very evident in the Erasmus Bridge that is part of the first day; watch for it as the riders make their way across in the short 8.9 kilometer Prologue.
On the second day, what in the United States is the Fourth of July, the riders leave Rotterdam and head into Belgium, and that could mean just one thing: mussels, frites and beer. We don’t hit France until Tuesday, and then it is right into the Northern France department of Nord and what will be one of the can’t-miss stages with a short jaunt over the Cobbles or Pavés. Part of the same route some of the Spring Classics use and a must-see. Then we are on to the Champagne region with a finish in Reims and a start in Epernay, but no drinking the Champagne yet boys, you have a long way to go. At this point we are only a few days away from the first mountain stages in the Alps. Personally, these are the very favorite: this is where they separate the men from the boys, but not only that, there are hundreds of thousands of people that will line the edges of the roads after camping out for a week waiting to see these riders tackle some of the steepest climbs in Europe. After leaving the Alps and traveling through the Lozere region, they will be hitting the Pyrenees. This year the Tour de France marks the 100th anniversary of the Pyrenees being a part of the Tour with a special inclusion of the Col du Tourmalet, not once but twice in this year’s Tour. These are the ones you don’t want to miss, although I think I would say that for every stage. The tour winds up the last few days in Bordeaux and the surrounding area before heading to the outskirts of Paris and then finally crossing over the River Seine, past the miniature Lady Liberty in the shadows of the Eiffel Tower and then finally onto the most famous avenue in the world, the Champs Elysees.
So, are you excited yet? I sure am and just might not sleep until the end of July. But before it starts there is much to do. How does one prepare, you ask, for this once-a-year amazing event? Well, there is research, lots and lots of research, shopping, planning menus and the best part, eating. So I hope you will follow along and even take part and maybe cook some of the dishes from one of my very favorite places that is so rich in history and the birthplace of so many recipes and dishes.
Visit my blog to see the entire 2009 Tour and to follow along each day on the 2010 Tour de French Cuisine.
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